When and How did Ustad Bismillah Khan get his big break?

In 1938, at the age of 14, Bismillah accompanied his uncle to the Allahabad music conference. There, after the completion of his recital, he was patted at the back and praised by Ustad Faiyaz Khan who said: "Work hard and you shall make it." Later, with the opening of All India Radio came Bismillah's big break. Soon after, he became an often-heard shehnai player on radio.


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Bismillah Khan was born on 21 March 1916 in DumraonBihar in northern India. He was the second son of Paigambar Khan and Mitthan. His parents had initially named him Qamaruddin to rhyme with their first-born son Shamshuddin. However, his grandfather, Rasool Bux Khan, the shehnai master of the court of Bhojpur, exclaimed "Bismillah!" ("In the name of Allah!") at the sight of him and thereafter he came to be known by this name.

His ancestors were court musicians and used to play in Naqqar khana in the princely states of Bhojpur, now in Bihar. His father was a shehnai player in the court of Maharaja Keshav Prasad Singh of Dumraon Estate, Bihar.

At the age of six, he moved to Varanasi. He received his training under his uncle, the late Ali Baksh 'Vilayatu', a shehnai player attached to Varanasi's Vishwanath Temple.

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